By Pat Kessler

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Minnesota Democrats are accusing Republicans of using state staff and equipment for political benefit.

If you attended a Republican precinct caucus last week, you might have been handed a pamphlet by your state legislator. What you might not have known, however, is that you paid for it.

The pamphlets were printed for 13 Republican Senators to pass out at their precinct caucuses last week — designed and copied at taxpayer expense by Senate staffers.

Republican leaders say there’s nothing wrong with it.

“These were handed out to our constituents. I don’t personally see any problem in it,” said Senate Majority leader David Senjem.

Senjem says Senate lawyers reviewed the material. It was approved even though it includes the political logo of the Senate Republicans, thanks voters for joining the Republicans and praises the Republican majority for its work on matters ranging from passing the gay marriage amendment to credit for the budget surplus.

“In my mind, that was a constituent piece and they are constituents handing them out wherever it might be,” said Senjem. “If it is constituents’ piece, generally speaking, non-partisan, as far as I know. I looked at mine, it was pretty bland.”

The 13 senators who requested the caucus material ordered as few as 75, and as many as 600 pamphlets each, side-by-side with legislative bills.

Democrats, however, say that’s illegal.

“I believe that all 13 members of the senate who did it, I believe, have broken the law,” said Senate Minority leader Tom Bakk.

Bakk says Democrats ship out all political printing, and pay for it with campaign funds. He says this material cannot be mistaken for anything other than politics.

“I don’t wanna accuse them of an abuse of power, but it feels like it — like the rules don’t apply to us,” Bakk said.

Senate Republicans say they relied on the legal opinion of the Senate’s lead attorney.

But in a memo to Republican leaders, the attorney says the pamphlets are not illegal because they “express appreciation” for joining the Republican caucus, but they do not “compel political activity.”

Below is the memo in full:

You have asked for information about the legislative update materials that were provided by certain members of the Senate to people who attended caucuses in their districts. I am providing this information to you in coordination with, and on behalf of the various legislative staff you included in your email request.

The attached table indicates which members requested copies of legislative updates, how many copies were provided, and the total cost to the Senate budget.

Senate Counsel Tom Bottern was asked to review a “legislative update” distributed on behalf of Senator Gerlach and to provide a verbal opinion whether the document complied with Senate policies. The Gerlach document complies with the requirements of Senate policy 1.45, which contains the Senate’s campaign activity policy. That policy defines certain forms of “campaign activity” that are prohibited, including “soliciting contributions to a political committee or political fund; recordkeeping contribution receipts;….” Nothing in the Senator Gerlach “legislative update” document fits within that definition of “campaign activity”. The policy also provides a definition of activities that are not “campaign activity” that includes “legislative reports,” which can reasonably be read to include a document like Senator Gerlach’s “legislative update.”

The email further inquires why the legislative update document does not violate Minnesota Statutes, section 211B.09, which prohibits using “official authority or influence to compel a person to apply for membership in or a become a member of a political organization, to pay or promise to pay a political contribution, or to take part in political activity.” Senator Gerlach’s legislative update includes a statement that says “Thank you for joining this Republican caucus!” and another statement that says “We appreciate your involvement, and hope you will keep in touch!” Nothing in either one of these statements can be read to compel membership in a political organization or to compel political activity. The statements do express appreciation for involvement in the caucuses, but that is a different matter from using official influence to compel political activity.

Democrats do send out a lot of similar stuff, but, they argue, not for election nights.

Comments (35)
  1. Swamp Fox says:

    The mere fact those who showed up at a GOP caucus were given these GOP “appreciation” pamphlets paid on the taxpayers’ dime is an affront to MN taxpayers and a waste of taxpayers’ money! Where did the GOP get the money for such extravagant wasteful political literature when the state has a treasury shortfall? The GOP needs more than hired GOP legal guns to tell me this ” IS” ludicrous political misuse of taxpayers money!

    Is this what the MN GOP and Tea Party political ethics/tenets are about?

    “Appreciation” for what? You can’t blame the Governor or the Democrats for this blatant and insensitive crass travesty exhibiting GOP political malfeasance and political buffoonery.

    Don’t you love Minnesota politics? Who needs Washington to see corruptive politicos in action? Oh well it’s another chapter in the MN political soap saga–“As Minnesota Churns”! LOL!!!!

    Don’t you love this state?

    1. Phiiiiid says:

      So Obama has put brought us into TRILLIONS of dollars of more debt and you are criticizing Republicans for running off some paper copies?

      1. Swamp Fox says:

        What’s the President have to do with MN GOP political handouts? Just go to show us all the GOP doesn’t practice fiscal common sense.

        You forget that President Obama inherited a mess from George W. Bush and has had to put up with a gridlocked Congress. So lets keep the President out of this MN mess and look at the MN GOP not practicing what they preached about spending money the state treasury doesn’t have. Printing those “appreciation” pamphlets cost a good chunk of change.

        Somebody should have taken outside bids from Speedy-Print, FedEx Kinkos, or any available local copy shop. Think about it!

      2. Tom says:

        @ Phiiiid

        Did Bush leave Obama a huge surplus that the rest of us dont know about? If the Dems had done this exact thing you would be saying the exact opposite. And yes the GOP should have used campaign funds to pay for these copies and not state money.

  2. Pundit Pete says:

    Don’t the Democrats use taxpayer money to get everyone on the dole and dependent on the government? Then the dependents vote for Democrats to keep the gravy train rolling.

    Tell me how that isn’t 1,000 times worse.

    1. bpk says:

      How about they all hire lawyers and point fingers while taxpayers pay the bill and nothing becomes of it. Like kids throwing sand at each other in a sandbox, except there trying to run our state and country.

      1. Tom says:

        @ bpk

        The Conservatives mind didn’t blowing money doing that as they were upset that rest of us won’t give them total power. And if the voters won’t give it to them, maybe the courts will.

    2. deltadawn says:

      Right on, right on, right on!

  3. Saywhatnot says:

    We’re talking about Republican photocopies of constituent updates?????

  4. ledesma says:

    Thanks GOP! By having taxpayers print your caucus flyers, local print shops don’t have to worry about hiring people to handle the extra business. Plus, you don’t have to pay that pesky sales tax.

    But seriously, you guys owe more than an apology for this stunt. You owe taxpayers money

    1. Phiiiiid says:

      I can probably pay you back the few dollars worth of photocopies. Who will pay back the taxpayers for all the wasteful spending done by Democrats?

      1. ledesma says:

        Thanks for the offer! The MPR website says that there was writing and design for 13 flyers, plus 2-sided printing for 4,725 copies.Just price out the whole job at the local insty-print and send a check to the state legislature. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

      2. Tom says:

        @ Phiiiiid

        Last time I checked the state GOP is in debt from their legal challenges, etc, so maybe you should learn some REAL facts before making a comment.

  5. getaclue says:

    Oh, I get it. It’s o.k. for Repubs to use tax payer money.

    1. Tom says:

      @ getaclue

      Yes because in their little bubble they are truely fiscally responsible even though REAL facts prove otherwise!

  6. GN says:

    It appears Mr. Kessler is a Unionist Socialist. Both parties have no problem burning taxpayer dollars one way or anthor.

  7. See BS says:

    Like Public Schools aren’t being used to push DFL Activism?

    1. Like says:

      Like wow BS. Like, can ya prove it? Like, if it was happening, like don’t ya think it would be news? Like, really BS think before ya comment. Like.

    2. Tom says:

      @ BS

      Like Private Schools are not used for pushing Social Conservative agenda!

      1. conservative says:

        Uh, like private schools aren’t funded by taxpayers like the public schools are. So pushing an agenda on taxpayer money is big difference!

  8. hal says:

    Are the GOP supporters here really that clueless or are they trolls? I am kind of frightened by the moronic thinking

    1. Revert says:

      If you haven’t learned by now, this board is full of trolls. I’ve moderated websites in the past that had it’s share of trolls, but this one takes the cake.

      1. Observer says:

        @Revert. Many of us no longer post on these boards because of the trolls, the namecalling, and vitriolic posts. ‘CCO has been informed of the problem, but says it has no control! And if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale….

    2. conservative says:

      oh yes, you libs are all soooo smart and perfect and would never do any name calling…except for that “moronic” word you used…

  9. Gary Gliddon says:

    Really, you think this to be news worthy, GOP maybe takes 150 bucks and it maybe illegal but then again it maybe legal. Great scoop wcco.

  10. ang says:

    Obama isn’t any better. Give me a break. So tired of the dems trying any move they can to make themselves look like the right choice. Hopefully there will be a lot less fools this election.

    1. Zing says:

      This is how a child reacts when he does something wrong and gets accused. They refuse to take responsibility and try to push blame elsewhere. Grow up ‘ANG’.

    2. GH says:

      Obama is worse! Who do you think pays for those plane rides to all of his golfing vacations? Who do you think pays for his wife to go shopping for $2,500 dresses? Please!! The GOP used some ink and a printer…GET OVER IT YOU LIBERAL BABIES!!!

      1. TL says:


        You really think that Obama is the only president, D or R, that has ever taken a plane ride to where ever and has his or hers clothes paid for by tax payers???


        Someone is a bit too naive to comment on government spending, me thinks.

        1. GH says:

          Well no he’s not the only one, but take a look at how many trips this man has gone on in his 3 and a half years in office. It’s insane! He should be one heck of a golfer by now

          1. TL says:

            @ GH

            You should prolly do some research before making you claims….

            ya, Obama made more trips during his first 2 yrs of presidency, however since the he’s slacked off considerably. Clinton and Bush come in 1st and 2nd respectively as the record holders for overall trips taken during the entire presidency – they just spread their trips out thoughout their terms….Obama took most of his “upfront.”

            It might also interest you to know that Obama (as of 8/2011) had taken 60 days of vacation time during his first 31 months of office….Bush took 180’ish.

    3. Tom says:

      @ ang

      Dont blame the Dems for the GOP problems! The GOP does it to themselves. Everything they claim to be for it turns out not to be true. An yes the less of foolish GOP / Social Conservatives / Tea Party show up the better we will be.

  11. Murph says:

    The lawless lawmakers strike again! Why are we not shocked by the criminal instincts politicians display so openly as if to flaunt their way into heaven on our dime?Putrid pus bags need to have their numbers,their wages and benefits trimmed tothe same drgree as they impose on other targeted citizens!

  12. angus says:

    Notice the right wingers just attact the Democrats, don’t even bother to try and justify their own actions or explain them. Their total defense is “Everyone else does it”, or similar irrelevant commants regarding the present discussion.

    “Democrats: Cleaning up Republican messes since 1933”

  13. Wanda says:

    I am so embarrassed for our country.

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